The Trump administration’s vaccination plan would require handing over personal information to get the potentially life-saving shot.

Edwin Martínez/El Diario

COVID-19 cases continue to increase in NY and are already approaching 5 percent.

This article originally appeared in El Diario.

Translated and condensed by Carlos Morales

In New York, COVID-19 cases continue to increase considerably, with the statewide positivity test rate surpassing 5 percent and more cases expected to emerge in the coming weeks.

While Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in the near future will gradually improve the overall picture, he also expressed concern over the possibility of undocumented people having limited access to immunization.

Cuomo pointed out that the Trump Administration’s vaccination plan involves disclosing personal information in order to receive the dose, including Social Security and driver’s license numbers, discouraging undocumented people, who may choose to opt out. Cuomo described this as a “discriminatory pattern.”

“Current plans will deter the undocumented community from approaching the vaccine …but they will also impede the effectiveness of the entire vaccination program,” said the governor.

Cuomo announced that he sent a letter to the federal government, to President-elect Joe Biden and to several Congress members asking them to protect the identity of undocumented immigrants, expand funding for the vaccine program and invest in outreach plans for minorities.

“It is in everyone’s interest for all of us to work together to encourage our respective constituents to participate in the vaccination program,” reads Cuomo’s letter, adding: “Outreach efforts to black, brown, Asian and low-income communities is [sic] essential. Further, it is certainly not in the national interest for individuals to have valid concerns preventing such participation, and the undocumented community has specific and valid cause for concern in providing unnecessary, irrelevant, and sensitive information to federal agencies.”

Colombian immigrant Juan Martínez said he was worried about the potential sharing of personal data with federal authorities when requesting the vaccine. Confirming the governor’s fears, Martínez said that he would choose not to get the shot if this were the case. 

“I do not think it is only me. Many of my compatriots would think twice about getting vaccinated if we know that they will have our information,” said the young man, who is an essential worker. “When it comes to vaccines, the worst thing they can do is spread fear. If they do not fix that, it will be no use to have found [a vaccine].”

Activists and immigrant rights advocates shared this sentiment.

“The immigrant community has been devastated not just by the pandemic, but by the economic crisis that has come with it. We need free and safe access to the coronavirus vaccine so we can begin to recover,” said Diana Moreno, from New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), an organization that fights for workers’ rights. “Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is trying to cause the greatest possible harm to our community before his presidency is over by forcing us immigrants to choose between our health and our family’s safety.”

“We need Governor Cuomo and all elected officials in New York to reassure us that they will defend our rights and the health of all new Yorkers, and to guarantee that access to the vaccine will not require handing over our personal information to the federal government. The immigrant community is ready to be vaccinated, and we will not let a racist and anti-immigrant government blackmail us. We hope to have our governor’s support in this fight,” added the activist.

Murad Awawdeh, co-executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said that guaranteeing full data protection for immigrants is crucial to getting the community to trust the immunization process and accept the vaccine. 

“In order to guarantee the public health of all New Yorkers, the COVID-19 vaccine must be available to everyone without any obstacles,” said the advocate. “We will continue to work with the governor’s office to protect immigrants and to make sure that no other agenda aside from the nation’s public health is driving the vaccination program.”

Theo Oshiro, deputy director of Make the Road New York, stressed that the pandemic has disproportionately affected immigrants and people of color. He added that it is “outrageous” for the Trump Administration to continue “playing political games” that put the lives of vulnerable communities at risk.

“The disastrous attempts made by Trump to obtain personal data through the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine will put the health of all communities at risk, particularly that of low-income people of color,” said Oshiro. “We must make sure that during this health crisis everyone can have access to a free vaccine and that it is easily available to all.”

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